Ellis: Emerson Wolves ― Paranormal Wolf Shifter Romance (9 page)

BOOK: Ellis: Emerson Wolves ― Paranormal Wolf Shifter Romance
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“I do. And I need this to work for us. You’re doing a great job, and I’ll be able to help out too. Just not as much as I had been.” Dan nodded, but his face looked like he was thinking hard. “Just take your time and think it over. And talk to Sloan. She said that she’d help you out as much as you want her to.”

“I will have to get a loan from her. And the amount of work you’re talking at your end of the country will keep us working year round.” Ellis nodded. “I’ll call her tomorrow. I’m…I’m going to do it. It’s a more than fair price to be a partner in this company.”

Dan would be making as much as he did. They’d split the profit and costs down the middle from now on. If they fucked up and went in over budget, it would cost them both. If they got a bonus, they had agreed to split that between the men and be done with it. More than anything, they both wanted this to work. And Ellis knew that it would.

Hunter came out to the deck where they had been sitting and handed him a beer. He just sat it on the table, ignoring it for now. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy a good beer with pizza, but he had to drive home later and he wanted to be alert.

“Where are you staying while you’re here?” Ellis looked at Hunter and realized that he’d not made any arrangements for them to live here for the weekend. “Yeah, I thought so. Sloan just called me to tell me that you’re staying here. She told Dawn that it was your idea, so you know when she is pissed at you.”

“Why would she be pissed at me?” Then it occurred to him. “She told her that I didn’t take care of this. Damn it. That woman is going to put me in the doghouse.” He wasn’t mad, but he was glad for the closeness of his family.

His dad came out when they were laughing at what he’d have to do to make it up to Dawn. He sat down and took the beer that was still cold. Ellis looked at Hunter when his dad drained the bottle before setting it on the table again. Before he could ask him what was wrong, Dad started talking.

“What the hell was I thinking? I mean…shit fire and light a match stick. I just thought it would be kinda fun for her. Then she comes up and tells me that it’s a date. I never agreed to no date. I haven’t been on a date in…well, more years than I want to think about.” He looked at them before he shook his head. “I’ll just have to tell her it’s not a damned date, but an outing.”

“Dad?” He looked at him. “Did you ask someone to go somewhere with you? To the charity ball?”

“I did. She was going on about how it was going to raise up all this money, and I thought, why the hell not? Just tell her you’ll take her. Then she comes back and says she’s excited about the date. It’s not a date, damn it.” He nodded, and Ellis shook his head. “It’s not a date, is it, son?”

“If you asked a woman to go out with you, then yeah, I’m pretty sure that it’s a date.” His dad got up and started pacing back and forth, talking about how women sure did get a notion in their head. “Who did you ask out?”

“I didn’t ask anyone out. I thought she’d enjoy going.” Dad took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I only wanted her to see what happened at one of these things. And with you all having your own ‘dates,’ I thought she’d be someone I could talk to.” He’d made the word “date” sound like it was something to avoid at all costs.

“That’s the very definition of a date, Dad.” Dad growled at Hunter, who laughed. “I’m pretty sure if you tell her it wasn’t a date but an outing, she’s going to smack you in the head. I would.”

“She might just hit me harder than that.” He sat down. “It’s Mabel. Mabel Carlyle. She’s been helping out with getting the food in wholesale for this thing, and I wanted to…I don’t know, return the favor. I never wanted it to be something that I’m going to have to repeat.”

“Dad.” Hunter laughed when he said his name. “What is wrong with Mabel? I thought you and her got along pretty good. And it’s not like you have to sleep with her.”

Ellis heard the whop all the way across the deck. Hunter’s head snapped forward like it was on a spring, and his dad didn’t look like he was satisfied with just that.

“You hold your tongue, young man, or I will take you to the shed. Of all the things to say about a nice woman like her.” Dad started pacing again. “We’ve been alone for a long time, her and me, and if we have a little romance after our outing, then we will. And it’ll be none of your damned business.”

“Yes, sir.” Hunter looked like he was on the verge of laughing again when he looked at him. “Ellis is going to take over Mike’s pack when he moves up there with Dawn.”

As far as changing the subject around so that his dad would be distracted, it was perfect. Dad looked like he’d just swallowed a whole plate of the sweetest cookies ever made, and his button looked ready to pop. With one more hit to the back of Hunter’s head, he came to Ellis and hugged him tightly. Hunter was going to pay for this.

“You gonna do it, really? You’d be fine at it. I know you would. A damned sight better than this idiot behind me.” Dad glared at Hunter as he continued. “Don’t think I don’t know what you did by throwing Ellis under the bus, boy. I’m still mad at you. What a thing to say to your own father. If your mother was alive, she’d have your ass for this.” No one pointed out that had she been alive, this wouldn’t have happened, but his dad was still upset.

Hunter nodded and looked like he was going to say more when his cell phone rang. Standing up, he went around the deck to answer it, and Dad sat on the chair across from Ellis. He was asking him all about it, when he was going to talk to Mike and everything, when Hunter came back around to them. He looked…depressed was the only word he could think of.

“That was Margo Hemingway…she works for Pete at the armory in town. She just said…he’s passed away. She thinks it was a heart attack.”

Ellis stood up and went to his dad. He knew that the two of them were close friends, and he could tell that his dad was taking it hard. When Hunter said he was going to make a few calls, Ellis and his dad sat back down. Dan left too, saying he was going to tell his own father about Pete.

They sat there for several minutes. Cash wasn’t saying anything, but Ellis knew that his dad was hurting. When he looked up at him, he could see that he was fighting tears, and when he wiped at his nose with his ever present handkerchief, Ellis leaned forward.

“I’m guessing that a date ain’t such a bad thing when you’re as old as I am, is it?” He told him it wasn’t a bad thing at any age. “Old Pete, he didn’t have him no kids, you know. He only had us. Nicest man I knew at any age. I’m going to...he was a good man.”

“I know. He told me once that he thought of us boys as his own. He was a wonderful man and will be missed.” Dad nodded. “Margo will need some help with things. I think she was working for him since his mate passed.”

“I’ll see to it.” He stood up, and Ellis did, too. When Dad turned to look at him, Ellis wanted to hug him again. “Have me some grandbabies, will you? Lots of them. I need them.”

“We’ll work on that.” Dad nodded and went into the house. Ellis sat down and thought of Dawn, and wondered what she’d think of his dad’s request.

Chapter 9

 

In the way of the pack, Pete’s funeral was held the next afternoon. Dawn watched all the people walk by the open grave and toss in memories for him to take with him on his run in the sky. It was perhaps one of the most moving funerals she’d ever witnessed, not that she’d seen that many.

Each person who walked by the grave would either toss in an envelope or a flower. Some, most of them, put in both. The flower would die, of course, and the seeds from it would mark the grave of a wonderfully amazing man. The envelopes were for him.

“Each person is to think of a time when Pete helped them with something. Or a fond memory of him that they will remember forever.” Ellis explained it to her as they dressed for the meeting. “They write it out with their own hand and then seal it in an envelope that will be sealed with their own blood, not saliva. We believe that when he gets to his great run in the sky, he’ll pull them out and read them, touching the lives of the people once again by sending them a good wish or a memory of his own.”

“Will people have bad memories of him? I mean, can they do that? Write it out and put it there if they didn’t like him?” He thought about it for a few minutes before he told her that he supposed anything was possible. “Pete was kind to me. When we were at the airport, he was there and told me…he said I was as pretty as a speckled pup under a little red wagon. Then he told me that he thought my jelly was the best he’d ever tasted, and that it was better than his own mother’s.”

Ellis pulled her up from the bed where she’d been sitting and held her. The man had been so nice and now he was gone.

And it seemed that she wasn’t the only one who thought so. Hunter stood up after everyone had gone by to pay their respects.

“Pete was…in a word…a pistol.” Everyone laughed. “The first day here most of you know that he saved my life. Had he not taken it into his head to be shot for me, I’m sure that things at the police station would have taken a different route than they did. He was a great man and will be missed by us all.”

Several other people got up to say a few words. Most of them had a funny tale to tell; some told what he’d done for them that no one had known about. Every story told Dawn of the man she’d only known briefly, and made her realize what a loss it was going to be for her to have not known him well.

As the grave was filled, each of the immediate pack members, mostly the Emerson men, putting their backs into closing it up, Dawn helped bring out the food to the tables that had been set up for the feast. And what an amazing feast it was turning out to be! Had she not known for sure that the man had passed less than twelve hours ago, she would have thought that things had been organized for months, not hours. Makeshift tables were set up in seconds, platters of foods laid out in a matter of minutes, and the drink glasses were filled while everyone sat, the elder women of the pack filling and passing things as they were needed. Dawn asked Jack, who was sitting next to her, when the women who were cooking for them would sit.

“They won’t. See how they have their hands in their aprons?” She watched as the women would dig deep into their oversized pockets and then shove something to their mouths. “Mostly it’s cookies or a sandwich cut up into chunks. I saw one woman have an entire turkey leg in hers, and she’d pull it out when she thought no one was looking and take a big bite out of it. A few of them have a bottle of water there, too. Not many, but a few even have some hard liquor in them. Those are some really amazing aprons if you ask me.”

It was amazing to watch them now that she knew what to look for. A woman of about sixty slipped some of the biscuits that she’d made into her pocket and winked at her when she saw Dawn watching. An older woman of about eighty was walking around with a pitcher in her hand, but was drinking from it rather than pouring. Most people declined her filling their glass when she’d get around to asking them.

“You’ll see all kinds of stuff you’d never see at most pack meetings. It was great of Hunter to combine this memorial service with the pack meeting that was supposed to happen next week. It’ll give people time to meet you and to give you well wishes.” She turned and looked at Jack again. “No one told you, did they? I’m sorry.”

“What is it I’m going to be expected to do?” Jack looked at Hunter, then back at her. “Jack? What is it I’m going to have to do?”

“If it were a real meeting, you’d have to shift and run with us, but since this is sort of a combo thing, nothing much more than just introduce yourself. I think most people here know of you, but they don’t know you. Understand?” She nodded, her belly starting to churn up. “Just breathe, okay? You’re going to be fine. Just stand next to Ellis when the time comes, say who you are and what you do. Mention the jelly. They’ll love that.”

Nodding again, she started to shove her plate away. Ellis, who was seated on her other side, pushed it back. When she looked at him, he winked at her, and she wondered how many people would notice if she punched him in the balls. Ellis leaned into her ear and nipped it.

“You do that and all my plans for you later will be put on the back burner. I plan to show you some pretty amazing moves.” She snorted at him. “And you need to eat. If you don’t, the women will think you don’t like it.”

Dawn started to tell him she was nervous, but he put a piece of ham into her mouth. She had to admit, it was the best tasting ham she’d eaten in a while. When she was finished chewing it, he gave her another piece and then another. It was sort of romantic the way he was feeding her. Then she realized what he was doing. Distraction. She realized this when Hunter stood up again and the entire group got quiet.

“My brother and his new mate are here tonight. Dawn Whitfield Emerson has joined us from up north. She and Ellis have decided to build a home there. Graham is going to buy his home here, and Addie and Jarrett have sold them a nice piece of property up that way as well. They’re going to be home so often, however, that we won’t miss them all that much, I think.” Ellis stood up when Hunter looked in their direction. Dawn felt like she was frozen to the seat. Hunter laughed, and she looked at him, thinking that murder might be something she could and would consider right now. “She’s led a very sheltered life and is a little shy. But we’re very glad to have her in our family, and wish the best for them both.”

She stood up then and nodded as everyone congratulated them both. When someone asked her what she did, Jack poked her in the leg. She wasn’t sure this was a good idea, but looked at the woman who had snagged herself some biscuits and was currently spreading her jam on them.

“I’m going to be making jellies and preserves to sell.
Dawn’s
is what Jack said to call it. It’s there…right here.” She picked up the large bowl of it that she’d put there not an hour ago. “I made this.” Before she could set it back down, Ellis took it from her and passed it to the man on his other side when he said he wanted more. Dawn laughed when he spread the apple jelly over his ham sandwich. Well, that was one way to do it.

After the meal, most everyone made their way into the dark woods. She didn’t, but sat at the table that had been cleared of everything but a few glasses. Three women she had only just met and didn’t really know their names sat down with her. Dawn looked around for someone to rescue her.

“I’m Martha, this is Mary, and that one over there is Claribel. Just like the big old cow.” They all laughed, and Dawn relaxed a little. “We hear tell you and Ellis are going to be pack alpha.”

“I don’t think so. Where did you—?” Claribel waved her off. “I think someone has given you misinformation.”

“No, they didn’t. I got it straight from the wolf’s mouth. And you know them, they’re worse than a bunch of old women around a washboard.” Mary pulled a skein of yarn and a set of needles from her apron as she continued. It looked like she was knitting a baby blanket, but Dawn had no idea. “You and that Ellis, you’ll make a great team up there. Teach them how we do it down here. We’ll even come up for you and show you how to throw together a nice howl party.”

Dawn was swept along with their story. She didn’t have to say anything, and she’d already learned from them that denying it was a waste of time.

Mary continued her knitting and poking fun of anyone that caught her eye. She wasn’t vicious about her observations, but it was more like she was giving Dawn the low down. Claribel nodded a few times, reaching into her own apron to snag a cookie or two, and even offered Dawn one a few times. Martha was the ringleader of the group, and Dawn began to see that they were the sort of welcoming committee.

“Did you hear that Cash has finally asked out Mabel? Bless her heart, don’t know a thing about dressing up all fancy like. I told her, I did, ‘Mabel,’ I said, ‘you just go on in there and show them how we roll around here.’ She thanked me kindly, she did. Nice woman, Mabel, have you met her?” The question startled her out of looking for whoever Mabel was when Martha patted her on the hand. “Honey, don’t even try to get us all straight. We’re a large and motley crew, we are.”

“Like the band?” Again, Dawn never got to answer Mary, but Claribel started humming a song by the band in question. If this wasn’t happening to her, Dawn would swear that someone was making this all up. “Oh. I almost forgot to tell you. What was it? Mary? What did I need to tell her?”

“I don’t know, dear, but when it comes to you, I’m sure you’ll remember.” The needles never stopped clacking, and Dawn just watched them fly through the ball that was getting smaller by the row. “I’d like to come work for you.”

Dawn looked around and then at Mary when she paused in her work. “Me? I don’t have…well, Sloan and Jack seem to think I have a business, but I don’t know yet.”

“You’ll have it if they have anything to do with it. They’re very nice, but very pushy.” Claribel started playing an air guitar, and Dawn smiled. Her humming had turned into words now, and she was nearly head banging with it. Mary smiled when Claribel got up to dance. “She does have a way with a guitar, don’t you think? Don’t tell her, but me and Martha are getting her one for her birthday. Lessons, too, if we can swing it.”

“That would be nice.” Mary smiled at her like she’d just given her permission or something. “Is it always like this?”

Dawn meant the way everyone seemed to pitch in and help, but Martha shook her head before answering. “No, dear, we’re usually much nuttier. You caught us on a good day.”

The laugh started low in her belly and made its way up to her mouth. It spilled out and seemed to make her entire body just simply feel good. She didn’t think they were joking with her, or even putting on a show. These women were just nuts.

~~~

Ellis kept an eye on Dawn all night. And when the ladies three sat down next to her, he nearly went to get her. But Hunter stopped him. His brother laughed when Dawn looked around for him.

“She’ll do just fine. And I’ve no doubt that you’re going to hear her opinion about you not telling her about the pack.” Ellis asked him who would tell her. “They will. I’m telling you that if there is something that you want everyone else to know, those three are going to be the ones that will spread it. I never seen a group of women with more solid information than those three.”

“Gossips.” Hunter told him that they weren’t gossiping if it was the truth. “And who told them about this pack that I may or may not be taking?”

“Who knows? They might not even be sure themselves, but all they need is someone to confirm or deny it before they’ll do their work. And I’m betting that one or more of them will have her convinced that she should do this jelly thing, too.” Ellis watched the four of them for a few more minutes as Hunter continued. “She’s going to do it, isn’t she?”

“I don’t know. She wants to. When we were talking about it today, she seemed to fluctuate between saying yes and telling Sloan to kiss her ass. Her words, not mine.” Ellis grinned. “I think she’d do it, too, if she didn’t want to. I’m telling you, every day she surprises me a little more. She’s one hell of a woman.”

“They all are. And if Dawn does this, which I’m betting she does, I want a family discount. Damn, Ellis, have you had the blackberry jam? It nearly made me whimper.” Ellis told him to wait until he had some of her pickles. “Pickles? Christ man, you’ll never have to work again if she does this. You realize that, don’t you?”

“I don’t care if I have to work for the rest of my life, so long as she’s happy.” Hunter told him he felt the same way with Sloan. Changing the subject when Dawn started to laugh, he looked at Hunter. “What have you heard about Combs and his wife? Shawn seems to think the man is about half baked. And that part is underdone.”

“Good way to put it. And his wife, while a real bitch, is just as stupid. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I honestly think they’re stupid.” Ellis and Hunter moved deeper into the woods for privacy. “What do you know about her father? Anything come up on that yet?”

“No. Nothing. And Shawn told me about the policy that her mom had taken out on her in the event that she died before Dawn did. Apparently, they all think she knew that she was sick but never said a word. By the time they figured it out, she was too eaten up with cancer to have been saved. But she did fill out the paperwork to have her belongings sent to Dawn when she passed. Shawn is supposed to go up there Monday to claim them for her.” Ellis told Hunter how Dawn felt about it.

“I don’t blame her for not wanting to see it. But it might give her the information she needs to find her father.” Ellis asked his brother why that was important. “It’s not really. Not in the long run, but I think she might want to know someday. And your children might benefit from knowing, too. You just never know.”

BOOK: Ellis: Emerson Wolves ― Paranormal Wolf Shifter Romance
11.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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